I agree with the comments from Paul Brislen, the head of the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand, about The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011 that passed into law today. This law is ill-considered and short-sighted.
I am not in favour of copyright infringement. As an author, I would take a dim view of anyone stealing my copyrighted material and as a rule I don't steal other people's material. However, in New Zealand in particular, we face a problem of access that in my view somewhat justifies New Zealanders' casual attitude to downloading films, music and television programmes from the Internet.
We have a small and tightly controlled media with only two television networks, two or three major cinema chains, and a small distribution market for books, music and films. These industry dynamics, combined with one of the most restrictive censorship regimes in the Western world, means we simply don't get access to much of the film, television and music content that the rest of the world gets, other than through the Internet. Most of the legitimate Internet sources of content such as Netflix are restricted to US-based subscribers. So we face the choice either to limit our entertainment diet to the bland tripe served up by our small and restrictive legitimate media channels, or obtain access to the content we want through illegitimate channels.
A further issue I have with this law is its blunt, heavy-handed enforcement instrument of cutting off Internet access. This is a typically statist approach typical of the current Government. Surely if someone is stealing content the appropriate redress is restitution to the copyright holder by the offender?
I don't think this new law will be effective in addressing the problem of illegal use of copyrighted material any more than anti-drug laws have been effective in reducing marijuana use. I believe the answer is in the media companies' own hands - provide legitimate access to the material New Zealanders want at a reasonable price. If we had better choices than those currently served up by our inadequate mainstream media and entertainment distributors, I would be the first to cheer the prosecution of those who breach copyright.